In memoriam: Meg Bowman, 91: Her ‘sparkling light is gone’
Freethought Today is very saddened to report the death on Nov. 23, 2020, of longtime FFRF Member Meg Bowman. Meg, a charming, sparkling force of nature, is featured in FFRF’s anthology of women freethinkers, Women Without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters, edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor. Meg often signed her name, “Meg Bowoman.”
Friends remember the statuesque blonde for her “maverick streak,” her infectious laugh and booming delivery style, and seemingly endless energy to cheerfully call out wrongs and organize to right them. She specialized in writing and creating dramatic readings to bring to life forgotten women and history. Her books include Courageous Women, Lilith: Adam’s First Wife and Other Dramatic Readings, and Readings for Women’s Programs, many published under her own Hot Flash Press.
Born in Rugby, N.D., on July 28, 1929, to Hazel Whiting and Albert Gunnerud, she graduated from high school in Illinois, moved to Arizona, married Richard Turner and raised three boys: Richard Jeffrey (deceased), Larry (deceased) and Carter. She has four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She was particularly close to her granddaughter, Christine.
She earned a pilot’s license, then got a teaching certificate at Tempe Normal School (Arizona State University), and taught at Phoenix Union High School District as a “secret” card-carrying union member. Meg studied at University of Colorado-Boulder, where she earned a Master’s in psychology and a doctorate in sociology. She taught at San Jose State University for many years.
In the late 1950s, she was secretary of the NAACP in Phoenix, and advocated for civil liberties her entire life. She led tours to the UN Decade for Women Conferences and was a fearless proponent for gender justice and global feminism. She chaired the Feminist Caucus of the American Humanist Association for many years, inviting Annie Laurie Gaylor, now FFRF co-president, to share in those duties. She was among the founders of Women & Religion, a Unitarian Universalist division, with the late Rosemary Matson. She was the editor of the book, Telling Our Stories, Celebrating Ourselves (1998), which includes the history of that task force.
Meg performed a reading at FFRF’s 1984 national convention, titled “Why We Burn,” which was later a chapter in Dramatic Readings on Feminist Issues (1988) and is excerpted in Women Without Superstition. “It’s time to exorcise the sexism out of religion!” she urged. Volunteer readers were given sexist adages from diverse religions to read, which were then set aflame.
Meg sent her friends and colleagues across the nation fascinating annual Winter Solstice letters full of astute recommendations for the best books and movies of the year, as well as jaunty updates on her life (“am still popping rat poison — warfarin blood thinner,” she quipped in her 2015 letter). Sadly, but fittingly, the last thing she did was sign and prepare for mailing to friends her 2020 Winter Solstice letter. She lived long enough to see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the presidential election, a great satisfaction.
As a humanist counselor, she performed weddings and other rites of passage. When planning a memorial service for a friend, Meg realized there was practically nothing in print for feminists, nonbelievers “and others whose beliefs do not fit into such neatly structured categories as ‘Christian.’” Memorial Services for Women was the result. Included in it is Meg’s own poem, which perfectly captures her:
Atoms in the Air
Her smile was brighter than morning sunlight
Her laughter healed better than any medicine
Her memory charms us still.
Her sparkling light dimmed and is gone
Yet we cannot grieve more than a moment
For she is all around us
With her smile
“To know Meg was to love her, if I may paraphrase Robert Burns,” says her friend Annie Laurie. “Meg enriched our world and lives, and while ceaselessly advocating for equality made it fun.”
Among the groups listed in her obituary to donate to in her memory is the Freedom From Religion Foundation.